In the Media

Kelly Vincent – Vision Australia Interview on Oakden and other issues

Transcript of RPH interview with Peter Greco and Kelly Vincent

Peter Greco: Well Kelly of course is the member for the Dignity Party in the Legislative Council in South Australia. Kelly, good to catch up with you.


Kelly Vincent: Likewise, thank you both so much for having me.


Peter Greco: Now, one of the topics that has been making news in the last few days has been the footballers who was overheard using the word ‘Retard’ in a derogatory sense, I believe you’ve got some thoughts about this.


Kelly Vincent: Well look, it’s just disappointing to continually see this word, continued to be used even though we know this is not acceptable in modern society, any more than it is to refer to a black person as a ‘Nigger’ or other derogatory terms, so if we can get over that then we can move forward as a society around those words we need to do the same around disability as well.

That’s why I’d really encourage those football players who think it’s still acceptable to throw that word around, to watch programs such as You Can’t Ask That on the ABC who have just aired an episode about people with Down Syndrome, who talk about their feelings around certain words that get used, and how it really impacts their day to day life.

And people might think that it is just a word but I strongly believe that the words that we use to discuss certain things really frame the way that we see those things and those people. So, really I don’t think there is any excuse in a modern civilised society to continue using that word, particularly not when you’re and adult and you should know better.


Peter Greco: That was interesting because the player apologised and we accept the fact that he was genuine in his apology but you know it could have been also part of the punishment in quotation marks that maybe he had to go and visit some people with an intellectual disability and perhaps get a bit of an idea of their lives and their challenges and just be a bit more aware of you know that side of life.


Kelly Vincent: Absolutely, or perhaps even get someone with a cognitive or intellectual disability to you know go and present to the club and have a chat to some of the players about the way that words can have real world impacts on peoples live and the way that they feel about themselves and the world around them. Absolutely I think that’s a great idea.


Peter Greco:Now another thing that has really taken a lot of attention over the last week or so is the aged care facility the mental health facility at Oakden in the north east of South Australia. It seems almost unbelievable that these things have been happening, well, a. happening for such a long time and b. you know just happen anyway.


Kelly Vincent: Absolutely, So the report into the findings, the chief psychiatrist’s findings surrounding Oakden came out late last week. I’ve read it and I have to say it is one of the more harrowing things that I have read in my entire time in parliament, and parliament usually requires you to read some pretty difficult things on a regular basis.

The level of abuse, neglect, the fact that the infrastructure of the facility was so dilapidated and has been dilapidated for so long and left unattended, the fact that you know there is possum urine seeping through the ceilings, everything from that to physical abuse, chemical abuse, restraints, or overuse of medication to subdue or sedate people, it’s really really shocking stuff and while we certainly hope it doesn’t get any worse than this and there’s nothing even worse to uncover.

It would be naïve to think that it only happens at Oakden, and that’s why the Dignity Party is really pleased to play a role in establishing a select committee looking at issues of elder abuse and while we want that enquiry to be quite general so that we can look at the cultural issues that exist across the board when it comes to caring for older people, we do think there is room and it’s necessary for us to look at Oakden specifically as well so that we can discuss what went so horribly wrong and how that was allowed to happen and as you said how that was allowed to happen for so long.

Importantly it will give those people who have tried to report what has been happening in Oakden facility for so long the opportunity to come forward and explain why they feel that they haven’t been listened to, why their concerns weren’t adequately addressed but it also gives people who feel that they have done the right thing to perhaps have some feedback on the commentary that has played out in the last few days.

We want it to be a balanced debate, we want to look very thoroughly into what went so horribly wrong and how that was allowed to happen, but as I said we want to make sure that given the reason we sought to establish this enquiry was because we had existing concerns even before the horrific incidents that happened at Oakden were unveiled through this review, we want to make sure that we keep a broad eye on the horizon for those broad changes that will make sure that we get holistic change wherever and however it needs to happen across the aged care sector. So, I’d really encourage any who has an interest in elder abuse issues and the welfare of older people to come forward and make a submission to that committee


Peter Greco: The word culture is often overused but it seems like particularly amongst the staff that there was something wrong with the culture in an organisation like that for these sorts of things to continue for such a long time and well what seemed to be on a fairly widespread basis.


Kelly Vincent: Well I want to make it really clear Peter that absolutely in no way do I think that all people working in mental health or aged care sectors are doing the wrong thing or that this speaks about every worker in that industry but yeah I think you’re quite right that it seems unfortunately over time the culture that built up in that work place was one that predominately was very negative and didn’t treat people with respect and saw it as appropriate to physically and chemically restrain people, to leave people on the floor when they’d fallen over.

I mean how these things happen you just don’t know but it would appear that even those people who tried to report the wrongdoings were not adequately listened to because that culture had built up so strongly.

That’s why I think we really need to look far back to how that even managed to, how that culture managed to become the dominant one in the first place. Given that I still strongly believe that the vast majority of workers go into an industry like mental health, disability or aged care support for the right reasons because they want to make a positive change and support people to have good lives


Peter Greco: So what’s happened at this stage you’ve called for an enquiry, is there any indication as to whether that will happen?


Kelly Vincent: Well we have already established this select committee into elder abuse it’s a joint committee of both houses of parliament and I am one of the members of that committee. As I said it’s quite general in its terms and that’s because elder abuse takes many forms.

It can be over-medication, chemical restraint, it can be physical, it can be financial, it can be internet scams, it can be lots of things, so that’s why we’ve kept the terms of reference very general because we want to look at all those things that are affecting the daily lives of older South Australians.

But as I’ve said given the gravity that we’ve heard coming out of Oakden in the last week or so in particular, I think that there is room for some of that enquiry to be into Oakden, specifically so we can address how things went so horribly wrong and hopefully make sure that this doesn’t happen again in the future, and I think in order to do that we need to address this head on, while at the same time keeping that view that the committee is there to look at general issues and make sure that we don’t only look at Oakden, but look at what’s happening good and bad across the sector.


Peter Greco: Is there a time frame for that Kelly?


Kelly Vincent: Look there isn’t, we’ve been running since late last year if memory serves me correctly, and we’ll be running for as long as we need to and as long as witnesses kept coming forward I think we will cut off submissions at some point, but to the best of my knowledge it isn’t yet, and we welcome anyone’s feedback to make sure we can get that holistic change that we so obviously unfortunately need.


Peter Greco: Kelly always great to catch up with you, thanks for that and we’ll speak again soon.


Kelly: It’s a pleasure, thanks to you both.


Peter Greco: That’s Kelly Vincent there, the member for the Dignity Party in the Legislative Council talking about the, well the use of the r word, I don’t like to repeat it and also of course the elder abuse that people with a mental illness at Oakden in the North East of Adelaide